Built to Reflect the School’s Mission and Values
Two phrases come to mind in describing the substantial renovation project that got underway at the beginning of summer of 2017 at Lick-Wilmerding High School (LWHS) on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco: “A private school with a public purpose,” and “Head. Heart. Hands.”
The first phrase are the initial words in Lick-Wilmerding’s Mission Statement and the latter, the high school’s motto. Since its founding in 1895, LWHS has had a clear mission to prepare its students to be citizens of the world, meaning graduates should emerge head smart, have a sense of community and compassion for each other, and possess the ability to make something with one’s hands.
One of the key goals of the project design is to make visible on the outside all the wonderful things going on inside
The new design and construction, by architect EHDD and general contractor Truebeck Construction, are fully intended to reflect the culture of the school, its values and purpose.
“One of the key goals of the project design is to make visible on the outside all the wonderful things going on inside. We wanted it to say to the broader community “Welcome! This is Lick-Wilmerding, it’s a cool place to go to school, it’s full of life and learning and community – come inside and join us!” said Scott Shell, Principal with San Francisco-based EHDD.
Indeed, LWHS is not only on one of the most prominent streets dissecting San Francisco in an east-west direction, it is right across the street from San Francisco City College, and next to the 280 Freeway, Muni and BART. It is a well-traveled thoroughfare.
The other key element LWHS leadership wanted in the new design, Shell said, was to accommodate how students learn today, and specifically, to have the new building area allow students to mingle and collaborate and converse in small groups or simply with a fellow classmate.
“With the former entrance that faced Ocean Avenue, you walked into a split level and the 1960s-built hallways were narrow. They were just human transportation corridors. They didn’t allow students to stop and talk. We know the way we learn has changed and evolved. We learn from each other. Learning is more social and experiential than it used to be, and the new building is meant to foster this kind of learning. It’s not unlike the way current office buildings are designed and constructed to encourage collaboration and ‘accidental meetings,’ as they have been called,” he said.
LWHS leadership wanted more space for its enrollment now and have the ability to grow. Accordingly, the old two-story main building – which housed administration, classrooms and the aforementioned entrance – is being expanded from two stories to three, and will accommodate 60 more students.
The new entrance will be on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Howth Street – a more natural entry point, Shell said. The entrance will have a wide lobby with a skylight and be on one level, making it ADA compliant and accessible for people of all abilities. As a “maker school” the lobby will exhibit artwork and other projects made by the school’s artistic and skilled students. In addition to new administration offices and larger classrooms, the new main building will have much more room for the dance program, which is so popular, retrofitted and new laboratories, and a new Center for Civic Engagement.
The original main campus building is historic and was designed by William Gladstone Merchant, who went on to become one of the city’s most prominent architects in the early 1900’s, practicing in the same era as Julia Morgan. As such, the existing early modernist curtainwall façade needed to be maintained; the new third story should be compatible but also must have a distinctive look to it.
“The third story will present a modern interpretation of the original facade and be mostly constructed of glass, to not only let in maximum light, but also project a feeling of openness – again, one of the school’s principles,” said Shell.
The school is being built with the highest sustainability standards with a goal of net zero energy usage. Rooftops will have solar panels, and some of the shop buildings have grass-covered roofs.
“Lick’s new classroom building will create a healthier learning environment,” says Truebeck Construction Vice President Nick Pera, a proud graduate of Lick-Wilmerding himself, and an advocate for sustainable building. “This project serves as a model of environmental sustainability through LEED Platinum design and the Living Building Challenge.”
The Living Building Challenge is a program associated with the International Living Future Institute. Three of the main tenets are (1) to create regenerative spaces that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature and community; (2) be self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site and specifically, to produce more energy than they use and collect and treat all water on site; (3) be healthy and beautiful places to work and live.
Lick-Wildering is pursuing zero energy certification and two petal achievements, Equity and Beauty.
The equity petal strives to create human-scaled places that promote social interaction and places that are equitable and accessible to all. This is showcased through the new outdoor space leading up to buildings’ main entry lined with benches, protected by an overhead canopy and set back from the main thoroughfare to create sense of place for all to gather. The beauty petal ensures the new school building contributes to the communities’ sense of place and inspires the students, teachers and visitors to preserve, conserve and serve the greater good by educating the public of the buildings’ operation, historic preservation, key environmental design elements and incorporating public art.
“Lick’s new classroom building will create a healthier learning environment,” says Truebeck Construction VP Nick Pera
From a construction standpoint, the greatest challenges in renovating the main campus building came from maintaining those historic facades and moving the primary mechanical elements that were housed in the main campus building.
When complete, students will experience a new campus that reflects the school’s spirit and be a bright, welcoming place in the community.